Thatscricket - News - 2nd Test: India seeks to level series against Lanka

Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Kandy: Absence of some of their top stars, a pumped up opposition that is waiting to go for the kill on its home pitches, and a humiliating 10-wicket loss in the previous match it seems India couldn't have asked for a worse scenario going into the second Test match against Sri Lanka here on Wednesday.But ask Saurav Ganguly, and he says, "We will come back in the series the way we did against Australia."Brave talk indeed, for the captain who is leading a side without Sachin Tendulkar and V V S Laxman - two of the stars of the 2-1 victory over Australia in the home series earlier this year. Or for that matter, without Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath, whose services would have been vital on the fast and bouncy pitches that the Sri Lankans have prepared keeping in mind their predominantly pace attack.But the Indian team would require more than just brave words to see them through. For a team going into the match with just two experienced batsmen - Ganguly and his deputy Rahul Dravid - and only two mainline bowlers - Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh with Venkatesh Prasad looking a bit rusty after his long break from international cricket - it would be a Herculean task to outplay the hosts who are on a high after their comprehensive victory in Galle.Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya has already turned on the pressure by announcing that he would continue with four fast bowlers in the second Test. The seamers, especially Dilhara Fernando who finished with match figures of six for 77, had done exceedingly well in Galle and Jayasuriya would obviously not like to disturb a winning combination although some doubts persisted over the inclusion of all-rounder Suresh Perera.Perera was reported for suspect action in the first Test but can continue to bowl during the review period when his action would be studied by a panel of experts.The Sri Lankan pace attack, which included Chaminda Vaas and Ruchira Perera too had broken the back of Indian batting. Not that the visitors fared any better against Muthiah Muralitharan, the only spinner in the Sri Lankan attack who completed his 25th five-wicket haul in the second innings of the first Test.It would really be a test of strength and resilience for the Indian batsmen as they seek to make up for their poor performance in the first Test. The Indian batsmen need to take a cue from Dravid who was the only one to stand up to the Sri Lankan attack and be counted. Dravid was grit and determination personified as he kept the bowlers at bay. Such concentration and commitment would be required from all the other batsmen and especially from the captain who is woefully short of runs. The opposition seems to have studied Ganguly only too well and have executed its plans against him with perfection. The onus is now on the Indian skipper to outsmart his opponents with some improvisation in batting tactics. That brings one to the rest of the middle order, which is packed with inexperienced youngsters. It was really a pity to see talented players like Hemang Badani not applying themselves and retreating into a shell against the likes of Murali.A more positive approach is required from these youngsters. Badani may find himself out of the team after a string of poor performances but whoever replaces him Baroda batsman Jacob Martin is a possibility - needs to learn from the Tamil Nadu left-hander's failures.These may be trying circumstances but are also fine opportunities for the youngsters to make a mark.Indian bowling too seems to lack the sting after Srinath became the latest casualty to injuries and had to return home.Srinath's absence would put a lot of responsibility on Prasad who was nowhere near his best in the first Test. The lanky Karnataka seamer would have to up his performance by several notches.Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh would have to shoulder the burden of both attack and defence and it would really be a difficult job for them. Harvinder singh is likely to be included in the side as the third seamer as the pitch conditions indicate some help to the fast bowlers. Harvinder had a fine outing in Zimbabwe but his skills would be put to severe test here. With Jayasuriya back among runs in Tests, the Indian bowlers can look forward to some trying times over the next five days. Jayasuriya's average against India is about double of what he averages against other teams and he has already cracked an explosive hundred in the first Test. Kumara Sangakkara's maiden century in Galle makes him almost a certainty for Wednesday although both teams will announce the final teams just ahead of the match.Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene would also like to make up for their lacklustre show in the first Test and Sri Lankan batting once again is all set to fire on all cylinders.Their bowling attack is formidable with all the four seamers maintaining a good line and length - with Muralitharan doing the job expected of him. The only thing playing back on the hosts' mind would be their track record at Kandy.The Lankans have lost the previous two Tests - in the series against South Africa and England - and on both those occasions they had come here enjoying a 1-0 lead after winning the first Test in Galle.While South Africa drew the three-Test series 1-1, England went on to carve out a 2-1 win.Jayasuriya on Tuesday said his team was not worried about the previous results and would concentrate on getting the basics right. "If we bat and bowl well, I don't find any reason why we should not win here," he said. The next five days would show whether Kandy proves lucky to the beleaguered Indian team or not. PTI


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